The mechanism of 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA)-induced tumor promotion is still not well understood even though it is thought to be related to the protein kinase C/mitogen-activated protein kinase/AP-1 pathway. Recently, TPA was also found to induce epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activity. Here, we investigated whether the EGFR is a necessary component for TPA-induced signal transduction associated with tumor promotion. We demonstrated that potent inhibitors of the EGFR, PD153035 and AG1478, blocked TPA-induced phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERKs), AP-1 activity, and cell transformation. Egfr gene deficiency blocked TPA-induced ERK activity and AP-1 binding activity. The blocking of the ectodomain of the EGFR by a monoclonal antibody depressed TPA-induced ERK activity and AP-1 DNA binding activity. The use of a neutralizing antibody for heparin-binding EGF, one of the ligands of EGFR, blocked TPA-induced phosphorylation of ERKs. BB-94, a potent inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases, which are activators of ectodomain shedding of EGFR ligands, also blocked TPA-induced ERK activity, AP-1 DNA binding, and cell transformation but had no effect on EGF-induced signal transduction. Anti-EGFR, anti-heparin-binding EGF, and BB-94 each blocked TPA-induced EGFR phosphorylation, but only anti-EGFR could block EGF-induced EGFR phosphorylation. Based on these results, we conclude that the EGFR is required for mediating TPA-induced signal transduction. EGFR transactivation induced by TPA is a mechanism by which the EGFR mediates TPA-induced tumor promotion-related signal transduction.